Sun 19 Sep 2010
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||How Long, How Long Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Prison Bound Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Baby Don't You Leave Me No More||Sloppy Drunk|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Penal Farm Blues||The Virtuoso Guitar Of|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Kokomo Blues||The virtuoso Guitar Of|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Tired Of Your Low Down Ways||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Straight Alky Blues Part 1||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Naptown Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Down And Out Blues||Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 1 1928-1932|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Blue Day Blues||The virtuoso Guitar Of|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Back Door Blues||The virtuoso Guitar Of|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Long Road Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Alabama Women Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Memphis Town||Sloppy Drunk|
|Georgia Tom & Scrapper Blackwell||Gee, But It's Hard||Georgia Tom Vol. 2 1930-1934|
|Bumble Bee Slim & Scrapper Blackwell||You Gotta Change Your Way||Bumble Bee Slim Vol. 3 1934-1935|
|Scrapper Blackwell||No Good Woman Blues||Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 3 1959-1960|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Nobody Knows When You're Down And Out||Mr. Scrapper's Blues|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Sloppy Drunk||Whiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Papa's On The House Top||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Gone Mother Blues||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Midnight Hour Blues||Whiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell ||Blues Before Sunrise||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Mean Mistreater Mama||Whiskey Is My Habit, Women Is All I Crave|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||I Ain’t Got No Money Now||Sloppy Drunk|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Blues Before Sunrise||Mr. Scrapper's Blues|
|Scrapper Blackwell||Little Boy Blue||Mr. Scrapper's Blues|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||I Believe I'll Make a Change||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Barrelhouse Woman||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||When The Sun Goes Down||Sloppy Drunk|
|Leroy Carr & Scrapper Blackwell||Big Four Blues||The Piano Blues Vol. 7: Leroy Carr 1930-1935|
|Leroy Carr||Just A Rag||Sloppy Drunk|
|Bill Gaither||After The Sun's Gone Down||Bill Gaither Vol. 1 1935-1936|
|Scrapper Blackwell||My Old Pal Blues (Dedicated To The Memory Of Leroy Carr)||Scrapper Blackwell Vol. 2 1934-1958|
Today's program spotlights the remarkable recordings of pianist Leroy Carr and his brilliant foil, guitarist Scrapper Blackwell. Between 1928 and 1935 the duo cut a remarkably consistent body of work of hundreds of sides notable for the impeccable guitar/piano interplay, Carr's profoundly expressive, melancholy vocals and some terrific songs. While it's impossible to do justice to to these recordings in the short space we have, I've tried to carefully choose some of the highlights and perhaps some less celebrated numbers. In addition we hear several sides under Blackwell's name, both pre-war and post-war, with a couple of numbers finding him superbly backing other artists.
A note on the recordings: There are no shortage of Leroy Carr collections on the market and I've tried to select the best sounding tracks for today's show. For my money the 2-CD Sloppy Drunk on Catfsh, carefully mastered from the original 78's, has the best overall sound. Runner up goes to Columbia's the 2-CD Whiskey Is My Habit Women Is All I Crave: Best of. The bulk of the recordings come from these collections. The early Blackwell sides come from the Yazoo album The Virtuoso Guitar Of and from two volumes on Document.
Teamed with the exemplary guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in Indianapolis, Leroy Carr became one of the biggest blues stars of his day, composing and recording almost 200 sides during his short lifetime. His blues were expressive and evocative, recorded only with piano and guitar, yet as author Sam Charters has noted, Carr was "a city man" whose singing was never as rough or intense as that of the country bluesmen, and as reissue producer and collector Francis Smith put it, "He, perhaps more than any other single artist, was responsible for transforming the rural blues patterns of the '20s into the more city-oriented blues of the '30's." Carr met guitarist Scrapper Blackwell in Indianapolis in 1928 and the duo began performing together. Shortly afterward they were recording for Vocalion, releasing "How Long How Long Blues" before the year was finished. The song was an instant, surprise hit. For the next seven years, Carr and Blackwell would record a number of classic songs for Vocalion, including "Midnight Hour Blues," "Blues Before Sunrise," "Hurry Down Sunshine," "When The Sun Goes Down," and many others.
Writer Elijah Wald wrote the following about Carr: “Carr was the most influential male blues singer and songwriter of the first half of the 20th century, but he was nothing like the current stereotype of an early bluesman. An understated pianist with a gentle, expressive voice, he was known for his natty suits and lived most of his life in Indianapolis. His first record, "How Long — How Long Blues," in 1928, had an effect as revolutionary as Bing Crosby's pop crooning, and for similar reasons. Previous blues stars, whether vaudevillians like Bessie Smith or street singers like Blind Lemon Jefferson, had needed huge voices to project their music, but with the help of new microphone and recording technologies, Carr sounded like a cool city dude carrying on a conversation with a few close friends. …Carr sang over the solid beat of his piano and the biting guitar of his constant partner Francis (Scrapper) Blackwell. The outcome was a hip, urban club style that signaled a new era in popular music.”
|Chicago Defender Ad, February 22, 1930|
Carr was born in Nashville, Tennessee in either 1899 or 1905. As a teenager he spent time with a traveling circus, and, having lied about his age, a short stint in the army. He settled in Indianapolis during the mid-to-late 20's when he began playing the club and theater circuit. Blackwell, its been written, was born in Syracuse, North Carolina (a search for this reveals no evidence of this town) in 1903 and moved with his family to Indianapolis. He was a self-taught guitarist from a large musical family but devoted much of his energies to his bootlegging business. When asked iIn a latter day interview who played in his family, Blackwell noted: “Everybody. My sister plays, my brother-in-law plays. My brother plays now, Hawaiian. And my father was a lead violinist. I got a brother a drummer. And another one a singer. “
Blackwell had met with an English entrepreneur and storeowner simply remembered as Mr Guernsey. Guernsey was eager to break into the record business and, having heard both musicians, arranged for Blackwell and Carr to meet. From that first encounter in 1928, Guernsey was so impressed with this musical partnership that he suggested that he take the pair to Chicago to "make a record". Blackwell refused to travel and a makeshift studio was set up in Indianapolis. Using the local W.F.B.M. radio station as a studio, the record company cut two titles including "How Long – How Long Blues" which became one of the biggest selling blues records of all time. As Paul Oliver noted: “together they made an incomparable team, with a driving movement and lilting swing which was extremely infectious. Neither was at his best alone; it was their perfect timing and effortless mutual support which made them.” As for the songs, Oliver notes, “they were carefully composed and far from causally planned but they had a rare and simple poetry.”
Gaining fame far beyond Indiana, Carr and Blackwell appeared in various cities. They played a succession of clubs in St. Louis and appeared at the Booker T. Washington Theater. The year 1932 saw them both penetrating the Deep South and making a trip to New York City to record a fresh set of sides for Vocalion. By the time of their final session together in February 1935, Carr's drinking was said to have made him practically unmanageable. Their association with Vocalion had finished and, probably at the instigation of Tampa Red, they had moved to the Bluebird label. Although Blackwell was present for these last recordings, there were disagreements over a new contract and after the first four numbers the two separated, leaving Carr to finish the session in a solo capacity. Carr was in brilliant form on this session cutting top drawer sides like “Ain't It A Shame”, “ When The Sun Goes Down”, “Big Four Blues” and the exuberant “Just A Rag” showcasing Carr's piano work as it had rarely been heard before. Unfortunately he sunk deeper and deeper into alcoholism which eventually cut his life short – he died in April 1935 just after his 30th birthday.
In addition to several tracks from his final session, we feature tracks from all the other years he recorded. 1933 was the only year Carr did not make records. We open the show with his iconic smash "How Long – How Long Blues" and from the same year spin moving "Prison Bound", the bouncy "Baby Don't You Love Me No More" which owes perhaps more to the popular music of the day than blues, the harrowingly prophetic "Straight Alky Blues Pt. 1" ('This alcohol is killing me/The doctor said if I don't quit it in a lonely graveyard I will be") and the buoyant "Naptown Blues" as Carr sings joyously about his hometown. Carr and Scrapper cut two lengthy sessions in 1930 resulting in some terrific material including the classic "Sloppy Drunk Blues", the lovely "Long Road Blues", "Low Down Dog Blues", which became a signature number of Big Joe Turner's and one of my favorite Carr numbers, the gorgeous, wistful slow blues of "Alabama Women Blues."
Unlike many artists, Carr continued to record steadily through the depression including two sessions the moving "Gone Mother Blues" and beautiful "Midnight Hour Blues" one of Carr's mot poignant performances, a masterpiece of mood and shadings. Carr stayed out of the studio in 1933 but came roaring back in 1934, waxing 36 issued sides including "Mean Mistreater Mama", "Shady Lane Blues" and "Blues Before Sunrise", all songs that would be revived by a variety of artists in the post-war era. As also, Scrapper makes his presence known particularity on "Barrel House Woman", "I Believe I'll Make A Change" and "Hustler's Blues" ("Whiskey is my habit, good woman is all I crave/And I don't believe them two things will carry me to my grave") aided by second guitarist Josh White.
While the preponderance of Carr's songs are slow to mid-tempo blues, he regularly cut a variety of songs with a mix of tempos and styles like the cheerful hokum flavored "Papa's On The House Top", "Papa Wants To Knock A Jug", the infectious vocal harmony of the bouncy "Memphis Town", a fine rendition of the bawdy "The Dirty Dozen" and continued in this vein in later numbers like 1934's "Bo Bo Stomp" and "Don't Start No Stuff." Also recurrent is songs in a more popular vein such as "Think Of Me Thinking Of You", "How About Me?" and songs that mixed blues and popular music like "I Know That I'll Be Blue", "I Ain't Got No Money Now", a variation on "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" and "Don't Say Goodbye." In style and manner, Carr's crooning pints the way to post-war singers like Cecil Gant, Nat King Cole and Charles Brown.
|Read Liner Notes|
Blackwell cut just over two-dozen sides under his own name between 1928 and 1935. He backed several other artists on record including Georgia Tom, Bumble Bee Slim, Black Bottom McPhail and Josh White among several others. He retired from the music industry not long after Carr’s death. He returned to music in the late 1950’s where he was recorded first in 1958 and was next recorded by Duncan P. Schiedt in 1959 and 1960. These latter recordings were issued on the British 77 label as Blues Before Sunrise. Art Rosenbaum recorded him in 1962 for the Prestige/Bluesville label resulting in his finest latter day recording, the album Mr. Scrapper’s Blues which certainly ranks as one of the greatest blues revival records of the 60's. In 1963 Rosenbaum recorded him again for Bluesville, this time with singer Brooks Berry resulting in the marvelous My Heart Struck Sorrow that has yet to be issued on CD. Sadly Blackwell was shot and killed during a mugging in an Indianapolis alley in 1962. He was 59 years old.
After his death several artists wrote tribute songs about Carr including Scrapper Blackwell, Bill Gaither and Bumble Bee Slim. As for his influence, Elijah Wald writes: “His followers dominated blues for more than 20 years and affected every aspect of the African-American pop scene. In Chicago, studios filled up with piano-guitar duos and Carr clones like Bumble Bee Slim and Bill Gaither (billed as "Leroy's Buddy"). In Mississippi, Muddy Waters recalled "How Long" as the first song he ever learned. In Kansas City, Count Basie recorded Carr's hits as piano solos. On the West Coast, T-Bone Walker and Charles Brown made Carr's smooth urbanity the hallmark of the L.A. style. In New York, vocal groups from the Ink Spots to the Dominoes harmonized on Carr compositions. Nat King Cole's first hit, "That Ain't Right," was a Carr-inflected blues, and the R & B historian Arnold Shaw traced soul ballad singing from Carr through Dinah Washington and Sam Cooke to Otis Redding and Jerry Butler.” Among other artists influenced by Carr and Blackwell, Paul Oliver cites the above plus Turner Parrish, Champion Jack Dupree, Rhinehart and Stubblefield and Mercy Dee Walton. “Not only is it a testimony to the esteem with which they were held among other blues singers – it was also an indication of the potency of the recording medium”, wrote Oliver.
Related Articles (word docs):
-The Death Of Leroy Carr by Theodore F. Watts (Jazz Journal, 1960)
-Blues Before Sunrise by Duncan P. Schiedt (Blues Before Sunrise Album Notes, 1962)